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Top 7 Best Bonaire Beach Resorts


As one of the most beautiful Caribbean islands in the world, and one of the most pristine, Bonaire is the perfect vacation spot for couples and families looking for top-rated resorts!

With year-round sun and warm waters, it’s the perfect spot to find your breezy beach getaway and let the sun and sand of Bonaire show you what true relaxation is all about. Whether it’s all-inclusive, private, adults only, or simply meant to pamper, there’s a resort for everyone in this paradise.

Harbour Village Beach Club

Take a walk along the white sands and grab a drink along the way at Harbour Village Beach Club.

Harbour Village is an exceptional choice for the travelers looking to truly relax and be pampered, as well as the beach enthusiasts wanting privacy while reclining along the shore. Set on a private, 4-acre section of the island, Harbour Village espouses world-class amenities including a spa and the La Balandra Restaurant, quietly sitting along the white sands and serving unbeatable fresh local fish (as well as many other delectable dishes).

In addition to your relaxation needs, Harbour has an on-site five-star PADI dive center that lets you experience all the Caribbean has to offer, and get certified to dive the depths off the island!

Address: Kaya Gobernador N.Debrot

Eden Beach Resort

Enjoy this view while sipping a cocktail at Spice Beach Club at Eden Beach Resort.

One of our personal favorites is Eden Beach, located directly across from Klein Bonaire, where you can snorkel and sun to your heart’s delight, this resort is comfortable, friendly, and accommodating in every way. Clean, cozy rooms and a relaxed atmosphere are constantly on tap at Eden. Friday night the onsite entertainment is Spice Beach Club, the resort’s restaurant, bar, and nightclub. Spice brings you beach-side cocktail parties amidst comfortable cabanas where you can hoist a mojito and watch the sun set across the ocean in one of the most beautiful vistas the Caribbean has to offer.

The sea-facing bar and restaurant cater to the fun-loving vacationers from across the world, with local drinks and food that are sure to delight. During the day you can grab a swim a few steps away from your cabana (snorkel gear is available for rent or purchase), or take the short 15-minute water taxi ride to the white shores of Klein Bonaire for an unbelievable experience.

Address: Bulevard. Gobernador Nicolaas Debrot 73, Kralendijk

Divi Flamingo Beach Resort & Casino

The beautiful views at Divi Flamingo.

Named after the beautiful pink bird that nests on the island, Divi Flamingo specializes in the joy of the tropics – sun, fun, and the sea. Located just a few minutes’ walk from the fun and lively downtown of Kralendijk, Divi offers two fresh water pools in addition to it’s snorkeling and diving, as well as a fitness center for those times when you want to be on dry land!

Now offering all-inclusive packages in Bonaire, leave your worries behind and plan out your vacation here, from their excellent restaurants and bars to their top-notch dive center, Divi Flamingo caters to Caribbean enthusiasts of all ages, including families.

For a bit of late-night excitement, grab a cocktail and head to the casino, which is open late and always lively!

Address: J.A. Abrham Blvd #40 Kralendijk

Coral Paradise Diving Resort

You may not want to get out of the water at Coral Paradise.

Set along the sandy shores of Bonaire, Coral Paradise offers all the amenities of a five-star resort, including an air-conditioned rental vehicle which is included in all vacation packages, as well as free taxi transfer from Bonaire’s Flamingo Airport. Coral Paradise has among the best reviews on the island among tourists, all at very reasonable rates (about $150 per night).

Once you settle in, you’ll feel right at home with their in-suite kitchens, relaxing in-ground pool, and grill area where you can kick back and get some sun. In addition to Coral Paradise’s resort conveniences, they cater to dive enthusiasts with 24-hour shore diving and daily boat departures.

All scuba equipment is conveniently available for rental or sale at their neighboring dive operator location!

Address: 107 Kaya Gob. N. Debrot, Kralendijk

Bellafonte Resort

Bellafonte is an idyllic location at night.

The Bellafonte is a luxury oceanfront hotel that caters to exclusivity with it’s 22 private ocean-facing apartments and round-the-clock concierge happy to help you with any of your vacation needs. You’re made to feel right at home in this private and idyllic resort, set away from the mainstream vacationers for a more personal experience.

Rated number one on TripAdvisor for shore diving, as well as diving for beginners, the Bellafonte is an ideal spot to test your scuba skills along their beautiful shores. If snorkeling is more your speed, you’re in the perfect spot as well!

Address: 10 EEG Boulevard Kralendijk

Plaza Beach Resort

The sun sets outside Plaza Beach Resort, an all-inclusive paradise.

Enjoy your time on this beautiful island with a stress-free all inclusive stay at the Plaza, the largest diving resort in Bonaire.

Fully stocked from the food, to the drinks and the nightlife, relax and let the winds of the Caribbean flow around you from dawn till dusk. The Plaza’s beach area is second to none, with kayaks and paddle-boards ready for you to take out on the ocean.

In addition, take advantage of the endless clear waters and tropical sea life with their complimentary snorkel equipment, and find out what makes Bonaire a true paradise. After the sun sets, spend your evenings at the Tipsy Seagull restaurant, facing the blue waters of Bonaire, or grab a cocktail at their beach bar for a relaxed vibe! It’s especially great for couples seeking a romantic getaway, and those looking for an adults-only evening can spend a few dollars at the on-premise casino.

Address: 80 Julio A. Abraham Boulevard, Kralendijk

Buddy Dive Resort

Buddy Dive Resort provides ample underwater photo opportunities – make sure to rent a camera!

Located on the waterfront, Buddy Dive is an oasis for divers and snorkelers alike, and one of our personal favorites. With dive rentals, car rentals and two crystal-clear pools, you won’t need to go far to find anything you need while staying here, all at an affordable rate of around $150 per night.

In addition to their ideal location and amazing staff, Buddy Dive’s ocean-facing restaurant is second to none. After a tasty and fresh lunch, rent an underwater camera for the day at the dive shop, and walk down the steps into the sea for some of the most unbelievable view of Bonaire’s tropical sea life you’ll ever see. The rental includes a full disc of all the picutres you took while swimming along the gentle waters, a priceless souvenir you can keep with you even after you leave the island!

Address: 85 Kaya Gob. N. Debrot, Kralendijk

Bonaire truly is a beautiful place that has it all – from family friendly to romantic getaways for couples. No matter where you stay, you’ll be afforded all the amenities and luxuries of five-star establishments while only spending three-star price.

One of our favorite locations in the world, Bonaire is an island that has to be seen to be believed!

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Top 10 Budget Tips for Traveling Couples


One of the things that kept us from traveling earlier in our relationship was the perception that we couldn’t afford to see the world. Traveling seemed like something reserved for either the uber-rich or people with no responsibilities and no timelines, the type that could travel cheaply because they had the time to bus or backpack instead of buying a flight from one location to the next. We had no idea we could be a couple that would travel the world together.

Another barrier was the obvious – there are two of us. Everything, or so we thought, cost double to travel as a couple. Two plane tickets. Two meals. Twice the drinks. Twice the tickets. Twice the entry passes. At a surface level, this is obviously a true statement – traveling as a couple does require you to save money more creatively because you’re paying for two of everything. However, when we stepped back after gaining some experience as a couple on the road, we found that there were a few ways we were wasting money while traveling. There are plenty of ways to save money for travel, and especially while traveling.

It’s easy to spend less with beauty all around you.

The relieving part of this realization is when we recognized that, for the most part, these were simple fixes. We didn’t have to sign up for any credit cards. We didn’t have to take additional risk. We didn’t have to go without doing what we really wanted to do when we traveled – we just had to be a little smarter.

With that said, we would rather you learn from our mistakes than make your own. Take note of these tips for saving money while traveling as a couple, no matter how simple they are. It’s been our experience that very often it’s the most simple tips and ideas that saves us the most money when we’re on the road!

Share Meals

This is a very simple, practical tip that will cut your food cost in half with little effort. Most places you travel in the world serve large portions, although some seemingly think that America is the only country that serves meals on plates that look like trash can lids, but it isn’t true. If you’ve ever had a plate of Schnitzel in Germany or a traditional Irish breakfast, you know this to be a myth.

This was plenty for us to split in the middle of a long day of sight-seeing!

What happens very often with couples who travel is that they will order two meals, have left-overs, and box food that goes to waste. It’s wiser to either get one entree or two appetizers and split it. The benefits are beyond financial also, as one of the things that bogs down enjoyment while traveling is spending too much time in bars and restaurants, over-indulging from the menu and then feeling too sluggish to do anything in the city.

Dine Less, Snack More

This is similar to the point above, but really requires more of a change in philosophy and the way we think about eating when we travel.

What I mean by dining less and snacking more is simply this – instead of every meal having to be a true meal, think about it as grazing. Too many travelers have the concept of eating “three squares” per day while they travel, and it’s something Tracy and I generally disagree with. If you can have a few bites of something in the morning, maybe take a snack during the day, split a lunch and have a cheap snack in the evening, you’re going to save considerably on your food cost. You may even be able to splurge for a nice meal or two, something that is worth sitting down for a few hours and enjoying, instead of eating three squares on auto-pilot.

Fast, inexpensive sandwich shop in Barcelona. We found a cheap meal to-go before hitting the city!

A great way to do this is by finding the local or regional market where you can find easy, to-go meals that are inexpensive and portable. When we’re in London, grabbing a few Tesco sandwiches has saved us more than a pound or two, and allowed us to have something quick without breaking the bank and stopping our sight-seeing adventures around the city!

Free Walking Tours

A great thing to do on Day 1 in any new city is a Free Walking Tour. You can find organizers of these meet-ups in virtually any city with a tourist presence, who work on tips or up-sell opportunities (free walking trip on which they sell canal trips, etc…). These are always safe, informative, and provide a great scan of the city without spending a single dime.

The best thing you can do is get lost on a walking tour – in Amsterdam!

When we were in Munich, we started our trip with a free walking tour in the center of the Marienplatz, which lasted over two hours and did a wonderful job of getting us acquainted with the city. Not only was it historically informative, but all along the way the tour guide gave great tips and locations for some of the less-touristy, more authentic locations to enrich our experience. We’ve made these Free Walking Trips a must since that experience.

Buy Alcohol at Duty Free

Most people enjoy having a few drinks on vacation and we’re no different. Like all couples, when we’re on vacation we’re also drinking for two. While there’s always time for a Guinness in an Irish bar, buying all of your drinks in bars and restaurants is an absolute budget buster.

Luckily, Duty Free is a great option for stocking the (hotel room) bar. Duty Free is an international-flights-only shop in most major airports around the world that sells various goods without paying local taxes. You’ll see a variety of items in these stores, from perfumes and souvenirs to high-end chocolates and alcohol. Alcohol can normally be bought for 30-50% cheaper than what it typically sells for in independent liquor stores.

Pre-drinking on Duty Free helps you save money for the good stuff!

In some countries where the government owns the liquor supply, such as Iceland, a bottle of liquor costs near the equivalent of a plane ticket making it beyond wise to pick up a bottle for the room in Duty Free. If you plan on having more than just a few drinks, do your pre-gaming in the room and “add-on” with the local fare in restaurants when you go out. Doing so will ease your bar tabs by at least 50%, saving you possibly hundreds of dollars over the span of a long vacation.

Avoid Cabs

Speaking of budget busters that make no sense, let’s talk about cabs for a moment. .

First, in many cities (in America and abroad) cabs are an absolute racket, especially when the driver can tell that the rider isn’t a local. We’ve been in situations, when we were less experienced, where a cab driver managed to turn a five-mile drive back to the hotel into a a $60 loop around town. “There’s construction,” he said. Was there? I wouldn’t know because I’m not from there, and that’s the issue.

Metro passes can be had in any city for nearly nothing!

Cab drivers have a tendency to take advantage of ignorance, not only through elongating trips but also by making the correct trip at an inflated rate per quarter-mile or picking a route that may not be necessarily out of the way, but one where they know they’ll hit traffic.

There are a few cities in which we’ve taken cabs and felt like we were being dealt fairly abroad, namely Dublin and London (use only the black cabs), but for the most part you would be wise to use the train, subway, metro, or even walk. A handful of cab rides can easily run you $100 or more simply from the airport for two people, and in most cities there are far better options available.

In Amsterdam, bikes are the way to get around!

So, when is it right to use a cab? When you have to, or when you know exactly where you’re going. In these cases, tell the cab driver up front, in a kind way, that you know where you’re going. Say your address, and tell the cab driver the first couple of steps on how to get there. “We’re heading to the Harding Hotel. Just take a right on this street and you’ll cross the Liffey – it’s at the end of Grafton Street next to Temple Bar.” (This didn’t happen in Dublin, just using it as an example) They’ll know that you know, and they’ll bypass you for the next unsuspecting victim.

Obviously, if you are out and the trains or buses are no longer running, you may have to opt for a cab ride. My advice? If you do have to get a cab in this situation, and you don’t know by heart where you’re going, use the GPS on your phone to keep the driver honest. If you see them getting quirky or getting off track, tell them you have it pulled up and there’s a better way (don’t be immediately accusatory). Sometimes the driver may actually know a better way and is trying to accommodate a faster route – but, sometimes they aren’t.

Go for the Greenery – Visit Parks

Parks are incredible for couples on vacation, not only from the aspect of their beauty, but from the variety of scenery in and around parks.

Gardens and Parks are the ideal location for a romantic day!

In most cities, parks double as cultural icons and places where history is commemorated through statues, gardens named after famous citizens and myriad other artistic expressions. Another bonus? Romance is off-the-charts in most parks. All you have to do is pick up a few snacks and a bottle of wine, grab a blanket, walk through a charming neighborhood, enjoy the scenery and set the stage for a memorable and romantic experience.

Outside of most parks, there will be small shops and museums that coincide with the park and its history. Through these shops, you’ll often find unique experiences that won’t be available through most of the city due to its relation to this park specifically.

Hop-On Hop-Off

As touristy as they might be, we’re huge fans of using Hop-On Hop-Off buses in larger cities.

Think about the cost. Two tickets for a Hop-On Hop-Off might run you $60-70 for two days. One cab ride across town and back can cost you that same amount. With unlimited trips on the bus, they make for an ideal method in getting around town, seeing the major tourist locations without having to search for them, and experiencing the area around those landmarks.

Hopping-off to see the coast of Lisbon.

Additionally, if you work through your hotel or the local Tourism Office, you can get tickets for the Hop-On Hop-Off bundled with museum tickets for other attractions for only a few dollars more.

Free (and Cheap) Museums 

Museums contain literal treasures about cities and their histories, and most museums are cheap on entry and heavy on entertainment. Many are even free.

Museums can be experienced anywhere – and cheaply!

Our advice? Do a search on the top two or three museums in the city of your choice where you would like to go, then do another search for “free museums“. Mix the list up and visit some of each. You might be able to see as many as five on your trip for as little as $40 or $50 for both of you, and truly immerse yourself in the local culture, art, and history. In addition, there’s something very connecting and romantic about museums when traveling as a couple.

Take Your Camera for a Walk

You don’t have to be a travel blogger or professional photographer to enjoy taking pictures. An absolutely free way to enjoy a city is to just get lost in it, walk around with your camera in tow and allow the city to sweep you both away.

Take the time to just walk and find the treasures around the corner.

Too often when we travel are we going to or from something, and allowing yourselves to just roam around looking at architecture, art, and even the passing-by of the day. The pictures you get will document your trip, give you a little something to brag about on Instagram (perfectly acceptable), and you’ll find yourself more acutely aware of the city in which you’re staying without having spent a dime.

Food and Arts Markets

Food and Arts Markets are rich with cheap, affordable, or even free ways to pass the day and have a beautiful, romantic experience.

Especially in most European cities, one can find open-air street markets with artists, street food, local works and vendors for multiple blocks alongside riverbanks and popular city streets. Your commitment to spend a dime is nil, and these markets often afford opportunities to meet locals, experience local artistic flair and pass hours in what can seem like minutes.

Markets like this are everywhere in Vienna during Christmastime!

These also give you the chance to buy real souvenirs. Instead of buying an over-priced key-chain in the airport, visit these markets to find small trinkets, normally for just a few dollars, and take a real piece of culture home with you.

You and your love can pick up a little street food, perhaps some wine, and sit along a park bench watching the activity of the market in full swing as you feel the true energy of the city come alive – all without breaking the bank.

Most couples tend to get frivolous with travel spending in impromptu ways, but this is well within your control! Understanding how to get the most out of your experience while also saving money affords you the opportunity to easily fix a bad trend – and enjoy it even more. If you’ve found yourselves getting to the end of your vacations low on funds and even lower on real experiences, these ten tips will give you everything you need to save money and travel the world together as a couple.

 

 

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The Top 5 Classic American Road Trips


Perhaps no country has quite the expanse, the open road, as America has. From the stretches of the great plains, to the rolling hills of the deep south, there’s something that brings out everyone’s inner Kerouac in simply loading up and hitting the pavement. Out of the many destinations, it’s hard to decide on the best road trip destinations in America.

There are numerous ways to travel, to see the world, and to simply get lost, but possibly none other brings the freedom of a devil-may-care experience like a road trip. Here’s our list of the top five American road trips for the inner rebel in all of us.

Get Your Kicks on Route 66

A true piece of Americana, Route 66 should be at the top of any road trip bucket list.

Route 66 is the quintessential American road trip, moving all the way from Chicago to the City of Angels, it continues to inspire. Best known for its stretches through miles of unbeatable scenery, small cafes and throwback hotels, Route 66 is a classic American road in every sense of the word. Post-World War II, the workers in the Rust Belt packed their bags and hit the famous stretch for better opportunities and new worlds as well as views across the States, bringing fresh perspectives to many along the romantic highway. There’s no need to start at the beginning – pick the locations that interest you and take your time to meander through the towns along the way. For a real piece of history that will take you back to the good old days, find your stay along Tucumcari’s Hotel Row in New Mexico, rife with relics from the warm neon lights of the mid-century. Another highlight of the famous route is a breathtaking visit to Meramec Caverns in Missouri, one of our favorite spots along the way. And the very place where the modern bumper sticker was born!

Helpful Hint: Don’t be afraid to venture off the Route itself, there are endless kitschy and cool attractions off the beaten path including Meteor Crater, Lowell Observatory and numerous Route 66 museums that chronicle the history of the Route’s embedding in American history. The ample opportunities to stop and reconnect with the classic scenery make this an ideal summer road trip destination.

See the Sun in South Florida

Photo Credit: Jenni Conrad

One of the most tropical and tempting stretches of road in the United States brings you from the white sand beaches of Miami all the way to the Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S. For 120 miles, roll down the windows and take in the sea air while you drive over the ocean itself. Pack some snacks and drinks for the 120-mile trip, some great tunes, and your sunscreen for the final destination in Key West! Along the way, make sure to stop at Islamorada to take in the local food (and cocktails) at the Hungry Tarpon Restaurant, all while sitting water-side next to the gigantic local Tarpon fish and pelicans, who are also eager to be fed by visitors.

For an even better, wind-in-your-hair experience, break out the motorcycle and bask in the sun (or sunset) along the bridges and causeways to get the full experience!

Helpful Hint: The weather can, and will, change in a second. Florida is known for frequent and wild weather swings, especially in the summer months, so make sure to equip any motorcycle with the best motorcycle tires online. If you’re prepared, the weather swings even add to this wild road trip!

The Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway

Photo Credit: Stephen Archer

The Appalachian Mountains are some of the most intriguing in the world, with your trip starting about two hours west of Washington D.C. and moving you over 500 miles through unbelievable scenery. As another great stretch that will make you want to hop on the motorcycle, find your way through the slow winding roads of Virginia and North Carolina with the wind in your hair. You’ll visit the long stretches of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia along the Skyline Drive before you get to the famous Smoky Mountains, a UNESCO National Heritage site.

Also, make sure to stop over in Charlottesville along the way and feed your inner history buff at Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, as well as the beautiful University of Virginia (where you’ll find great shopping and dining as well!).

Helpful Hint: Take your time! The tendency going through the Appalachians is to get through them, as though it’s simply a badge of honor. If you can take a few days on this trip and really embrace it – stop often, check out anything that looks interest, and of course, take plenty of pictures. The Appalachians are beautiful and will provide plenty of opportunity.

See the Loneliest Road from Coast to Coast

Photo Credit: Bill Herndon

For the most extreme road-trippers, find your way along Route 50, commonly known in Nevada as The Loneliest Road. Stretching from West Sacramento in California all the way to the East Coast of Ocean City in Maryland, this country-long pathway will take you about as far as you can go in the U.S. Once on the western part of the States, you’ll traverse through many desert valleys between beautiful mountains.

This historic route was actually used initially for the Pony Express and later for the Lincoln Highway. Be sure to stock up on gas, however, as at one point you’ll find yourself winding 112 miles with only one station – Middlegate Station in Fallon, Nevada, a town with a population of just 19 residents!

Helpful Hint: If you don’t have ample time to enjoy the entire trip, pick either the route out of California or going through the heartlands. You’ll have the least amount of traffic, the most sight-seeing, and the freest trip whether traveling via car or bike!

See the Sun along the Pacific Coast

Photo Credit: Kai Lehmann

Route 1 in California is definitely in contention for the one of the most famous stretches of highway in the country, and should be a part of any western road trip itinerary. Bringing the road-tripper views of mountainous terrain, forests and (of course) the ocean itself, take your time along the road where the asphalt seems to merge with the coast itself.

Don’t miss the highlight of California’s Central Coast – Big Sur – where you’ll find the breeze flowing along one of the most scenic and underpopulated coastlines in the U.S. The very place where Kerouac also found inspiration for his book of the same name, it makes this one of the best American road trip routes!

Helpful Hint: Route 1 is best traveled by bike, as this is a stretch where you really want the wind in your air! Some of the freshest landscape in the country, you can find whatever you need for this trip through great suppliers like www.bikebandit.com.

The U.S. is a vast, changing, and gorgeous landscape waiting for you to make your way around all her hills, valleys and oceans. Pick your favorite road and get out there; whether it’s the sparse landscape of Nevada or the sunlit roads of Florida, there’s something for every adventurous road-tripper!

Cover photo credit: JLS Photography

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Travel Peru: Machu Picchu and More


There is much to be said for utilizing American holidays for certain excursions, especially south of the Equator, where during North America’s wintertime it is quite appealing. Additionally, since no one besides the continental United States celebrates Labor Day or Thanksgiving, the travel prices are less expensive, yet the weather is perfect in places like Peru. We spent 9 days in this amazing country, and to be honest, I would take their ceviche over traditional turkey and stuffing any day! Easily, Peru is one of the best places to see in South America, and late November is one of the best times of year to go.

Our experience was definitely one of my overall favorites of all the excursions we’ve experienced. Using Best Peru Tours, an all-inclusive organizer of guided tours throughout Peru, we were able to book a stay that had us beginning our journey in Lima and flying to Cusco before making the trek to Machu Picchu, then returning for two nights in Lima. If you’re wondering how to get from Machu Picchu to Lima, your escorted touring group will take care of that as well!

Beautiful Machu Picchu

While in Lima, you’ll want to stay in downtown Miraflores, which is about an hour from the airport. After your arrival in Cusco, the Inca Rail (a national train liner that goes between Cusco and Machu Picchu) is about a 2.5 hour trip, and brings you to the base of Machu Picchu to experience the real splendor of the location. If you use a company such as Best Peru Tours, the booking of the individual legs becomes rather easy, as they handle this and the hotel booking for you.

Your choice is either to stay some time in Machu Picchu and truly experience Cusco, or perhaps enjoy a rather elaborate day trip from Lima if your time is limited. Along the way, you’ll experience Ollantaytambo and have a chance to see the beautiful Sacred Valley – one of our favorite scenes along the trip. Not only is the Sacred Valley visually enchanting, but its ideal as a places for couples to travel as it doubles as incredibly romantic.

Sacred Valley is another one of Peru’s magnificent experiences.

 

The bus ride up the mountain to Machu Picchu is daunting and thrilling at the same time. Try not to freak out as you look out the nearest window displaying a free falling, tree-lined and rocky mountain face as you wind at nearly 180-degree angles up a dirt road! Oh, there are buses passing you on their way down as well, but from our experience, they are definitely professionals!

(Side note – we didn’t know it was pronounced “Macch-you PEEK-shoo” until we got there! Apparently “PEE-shoo” means, uh, male member, so just a quick FYI, haha!).

In addition to Machu Picchu, a tour to the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo is a must. The Pisac Market is so peaceful, and the local silver jewelers will show you how they create their beautiful pieces by hand in their workshop. The cost of their pieces is unbelievably cheap compared to US pricing for silver, and there are day trips that frequent the area from Cusco regularly.

Before and after your tours, you’ll stay in the city of Cusco. It is unlike anything we’d experienced before – wild, warm, welcoming, and a lot of wandering (well fed and super friendly) dogs, which we loved! The locals in Cusco, at the base of the beautiful landscape, only require you to speak broken Spanish to get around – because most locals understand basic English – which is embarrassing to any native English speaker from the U.S.

The people are warm and accommodating, used to tourists but not at all resentful of the intrusion on their natural habitat. The tourists that frequent Peru from other destinations leave almost no footprint behind, and instead, a lot of love and appreciation.

Things of note regarding travel in Peru:

YOU CANNOT DRINK THE TAP WATER, but bottled water is inexpensive, and in certain locations can be refilled into your bottles. The environmental concerns regarding plastic waste have to be suspended for personal health reasons, but the walkability of any area and public transportation probably balances it out.

DO NOT FLUSH TOILET PAPER down any of the toilets. The reason for this rule (which is posted in all hotel rooms and public toilets) does not have to do with hygiene, it has to do with the original city planning – the sewer pipes were built too small! They are the size of a small orange in diameter as opposed to what we are used to in the States. You’ll need to place all paper waste into the trash can, which every establishment provides. It’s standard practice, just be respectful and dispose of your full trash bag if necessary!

MOST HOTELS IN CUSCO DO NOT PROVIDE DOUBLE/QUEEN BEDS, which we actually liked, to be honest! After days and days of travel in those full size beds, where we were restless and rolling over each other, we were given 2 separate, soft beds in a clean room which were absolutely perfect. I call them the “Avoid Snoring and Shuffling” travel convenience beds. Well worth it, and the room was so cozy!

Must Do In Cusco

Visit the downtown area and walk around the Plaza de Armas! There are many great restaurants and shops, as well as the impressive Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin, also known as Cusco Cathedral. This UNESCO World Heritage site was completed after almost a century of construction in 1654. Within its walls are housed myriad artifacts and relics from the area itself.

Cusco Cathedral is beyond impressive.

The San Pedro marketplace in Cusco is also not to be missed, open from 9am to 6pm, and less than a ten minute walk from the Plaza. It’s a bustling array of great sights, sounds and smells, where you might find local performances in the square, an area surrounded by food and juice carts as well as souvenirs. Across from the square is another large part of the market where you can get freshly prepared food from locals and spend hours wandering around! If you do buy from any one of the endless souvenir stands in the market, feel free to offer a price you feel is reasonable if their initial price is too high.

After walking around the expanse, you might get a little hungry! Try a plate of lomo saltado (stir fried beef), and a big glass of steamed milk, both delicious. The local people here are very friendly and welcoming to tourists, so try something new! We spent quite a bit of time here in this area wandering around for the day.

Quick tip #1: If you do partake in the local juice, make sure to verify that it’s been made with bottled water as the local water is not potable!

Quick tip #2: The “toilets” in the market area are built into the floors in the public areas and manned by locals who charge for toilet paper, and, there are no sinks. Bring a pack of sanitary hand wipes as well as some tissue before you head over.

Must do in Lively Lima

While much of Lima is highly congested and not ideal for tourist, staying in the Miraflores district was an absolute delight. Clean and modern, yet still containing the cultural flair that is uniquely Peru, Miraflores represents the best of Lima.

We stayed at the El Tambo II Hotel, located in central Miraflores near excellent restaurants and prime shopping markets, most of which featured locally made clothes, bags and other goods. Walking out from the El Tambo was a peaceful stroll, along the main thoroughfare in the morning and stopping for a light desayuno and coffee.

The food, no matter where we ate, was incredible. Given Lima’s location as a coastal city along the rough waters of the Pacific, fresh fish was ample. With that in mind, our first dinner stop was El Pez On, a thriving seafood restaurant that provided us with free pisco sour as we waiting for a table under the shimmering Peruvian sun. The setting was incredible, the service was even better, and the ceviche was the best we’ve ever had.

El Pez On – the perfect place to start your stay in Lima.

There were numerous other activities in the downtown streets, as we walked to nearby Parque Kennedy. The small park was idyllically situated along a small section of hostels and restaurants, where we had a glass of wine or two and a few appetizers. After, we walked to the benches and fed some of the cats who frequented Parque Kennedy (also known as Parque Gato!).

You won’t be the only one hanging out at Parque Kennedy!

For calmer fair, Miraflores provided unlimited small cafes and beautiful sitting areas to simply watch the day pass. However, nighttime brings a different vibe. The streets fill with locals and tourists alike soaking in the perfect weather and delicious drinks, often making a stop at one of the local casinos for a draw or two on the slot machine. We stopped in as well, as stopped after our third “pull” paid for a few drinks and a modest meal!

Miraflores truly is a beautiful city to simply walk, as we experienced during our nighttime walking tour of the city, purchased through Viator for only $8 per person. The tour was casual and informative, and truly helped us feel like we knew the city, though the truth was that we had much to learn. If walking isn’t your interest, and perhaps you prefer a bike ride, you can also check out the Urban Bike Ride Tour that goes from Miraflores to San Isidro. It’s a beautiful ride that allows you to view a larger section of Lima, all within view of the rolling Pacific waters.

The Heights of Machu Picchu

The truly glory of Peru, however, is and will always be Machu Picchu. Arriving at the base of this beautiful time capsule was the culmination of a life-long interest we’ve both had, from our early days as a couple talking about the poem by Pablo Neruda to the time spend leering at travel articles and dreaming about the day we would finally see the ancient city.

Standing atop Machu Picchu, walking through it and touching the centuries-old structures truly sends the chill of time through your bones. The wind seemingly blows history through you, and you realize you’re truly in the presence of something grand. Machu Picchu was the ultimate culmination to a trip truly built for a crescendo, and we were provided that.

If you haven’t been to Peru, and more specifically Machu Picchu, you simply must go. The people, the food, the culture and the permeating history make it life-changing experience for any traveler looking for something transcendental.

 

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10 Travel Tips to Plan Your Trip


In terms of preparedness, your fifth international trip is going to look a lot different from your first, and your fifteenth will look wildly different from your fifth. It was no different for us.

The first time Tracy and I left the country we had a great time, but we made a lot of mistakes. We spent too much on flights. We didn’t find the right budget hotel. We planned too much for the wrong things and not enough for the right things. We spent too much time doing the wrong things, and not enough time doing the right things. We spent money in the wrong ways – wastefully, and we made what we now know are cardinal sins when you travel. We know much more about the best tips for couples for travel together often, and can get pretty creative in terms of saving time and money.

Did we still have a great time when we made the small mistakes? Of course. Could it have been better, had we exercised a few of the tried and true basics we hold to steadfastly now? Without question. It’s through our mistakes that we hope you’ll avoid making mistakes of your own, learning from our missteps on the road. This is advance beyond simple knowing what to bring, or creating a checklist, but rather keys to enjoying and making the most of your trip, and avoid some of the mistakes most make while traveling.

Use Google Maps to Book Hotels

If you’re like us, sometimes it’s hard to figure out not only which hotel to book, but what area in which you should be looking. There’s one little trick we use in Google Maps to figure this out.

Go to Google Maps and search for “hotels near (city), (country)”. You will see a scatter map of red icons indicating the location of hotels in that area. In the example below, we’ve done a search on Google Maps for “hotels near Berlin, Germany”.

Given that hotels are built in areas with the best things to do, including tourist attractions, restaurants, museums and public transportation, you want to zoom in on an area of these clustered red dots indicating the presence of a hotel.

As you zoom in, you will notice that prices will populate next to the red dots, as well as the hotel name. This will also update the listing on the left side to only include hotels that are visible in the frame you are looking at. As you move the cursor around and view the map, the bar on the left will continue to update with the name, pricing, photo and brief description of the hotels within that area. You’ll quickly be able to see if the hotels in the area fit in your budget.

As you can see, we’ve zoomed into a dense cluster of hotels along the Spree River in Berlin with immediate access to public transportation (marked by the “U” on German maps). In the center-left of the screen, we see “Hotel Allegra” listed at only $60 per night! Let’s zoom in and find out more.

Here the information becomes clear – Hotel Allegra is a four-star hotel only a few hundred feet from the Spree, with access to nearby restaurants, cafes and bars. We can click on the area to the left and book our stay!

Cabs

Only black cabs in London, if you want to get where you’re going.

Use cabs when necessary, but only when absolutely necessary. There are simply too many better ways to get around a place like London without spending the money, which is always more than what you will plan or budget for. We know, we thought the same way. “Maybe we’ll have one or two cabs rides a day, maybe $5 or $10 a piece.” Do the math on that. If you take a cab twice daily for a week, and each ride is $10, you’ve now spent $140 on simple transportation in a week. Now, this is with the estimate being what you’ll find through any online research, but it will nearly always be more.

Taking a cab from the airport to the hotel? Probably necessary if your flight gets in super early or very late, but bank on the fact that it’s going to be double of what you think it is. Why? A few reasons. First, cab drivers will take advantage of your ignorance. This happens not only overseas, but right here in the good ol’ U.S.A., also. When we went to Boston, a simple cab ride from Logan Airport to the Harborside area cost us $40. We could have taken a bus for $5, and maybe 15 minutes longer in duration to get there, but the anticipation of getting to the hotel led us to take the first thing available. Internationally, we’ve made the mistake a few times of taking cabs from the airport to our hotel, obviously not locals nor speaking the language, and it’s busted our budget more than a few times.

Secondly, you don’t know where you’re going. They do. If a five kilometer route is fastest, and available, expect the slightly longer route. This doesn’t make them bad people, it simply makes cab drivers business people who are looking to grab a few extra bucks. You, the weary and inexperienced traveler, just happen to be the goat in this case.

So, when should you take a cab? It’s always wise to use Google Maps in the cab, as soon as you sit down. Seriously. This keeps drivers much more honest than than they would otherwise. Pull up your route on your phone and tell them you know where you’re going. Often, we’ve even deferred saying the destination, provided we knew the language in the city in which we were traveling. “Take me to X Hotel” gives cab drivers a lot of liberty. “Go straight about two miles and take a right on X road” let’s them know immediately that you know where you’re going, and makes them less likely to play games.

If you don’t have the benefit of technology, try and use whatever is the official cab where you are. Every city has official drivers, and ones that are hucksters. In London, take black cabs. Always. Forever. Learn what the legitimate companies are when you come into the city, and only ride with them.

Pack a Scarf

Light-weight scarves like these are perfect to tie around your backpack handle, and great when it gets chilly!

Tracy does this religiously, and I’ve started doing the same, but you should definitely pack a scarf, sarong or something similar. Typically she’ll take a thin scarf, made of cotton, viscose, silk or something lightweight, and tie it around the handle of her backpack. This has innumerable uses as an eye mask, headrest, towel or even to actually use as a scarf if you get cold. You won’t believe how handy this will come into play when you actually need it, and it’s a cheap and unobtrusive accessory.

Have the Right Power Adapter

Make sure to check your destination country, and bring a universal adapter.

Something Tracy was on top of that I didn’t even consider prior to our first trip was the need for an international power adapter. There are dozens of different configurations for wall adapters, and each country and currency zone has their own. These can differ even between neighboring countries, and it’s vital to have the right one before you take your trip.

Power adapters aren’t the easiest thing to find in some countries, and the ones you do find can be three times as expensive as what you might find online – or more! There are great deals on Amazon for universal adapters that should help you get around most major countries without much of an issue for under $10. Waiting until you enter the country to buy one of these can cost you $30-$40.

Use a Money Belt

Travel belts hold a surprising amount of documents, and keep you secure.

If you travel anywhere, pick-pocketing is a real thing. This doesn’t make a place dangerous, it’s simply a reality that sometimes people steal. Most tourists do a terrible job of “blending”, and as such stick out like a sore thumb to these small group of thieves.

Using a thin money belt under my shirt to keep my wallet, passport and phone has saved our tails on more than a few occasions, including when we were in Paris. Our first time visiting, as soon as we stepped out of the Gare du Nord we were approached by two girls who were obviously a part of some scam to distract you while having your pockets picked. The first girl stepped in front of me with a clipboard, asking for donations for some type of charity, while the second snuck behind us while distracted, and attempted to take my wallet out of my back pocket. I actually felt the jostling on my back pocket, and turned around to see the second girl standing behind me and drawing her hand back. After this, there was a bizarre exchange of expletives hurled in our direction before we simply ignored the event and walked on. Why? Because my wallet was secure in my money belt, under my shirt and jacket.

Now, we aren’t talking about a fanny pack. Buy a thin money belt that lays flat and has RFID protection to prevent identity theft on your credit cards and passport. The one we use is on Amazon, and is only about $16. These are completely inconspicuous under your clothes, including warm-weather wear.

Back-Up Documents

Make sure to take photos of your ID page, both sides.

Whether at the risk of pick-pocketers or simply human error, you can lose your important documents. People generally think travel is more dangerous than it is, forgetting that often our biggest threat can be our own forgetfulness. I’ve walked away from restaurant booths and seen my wallet still sitting in the seat, and I’ve left my credit card on counters after using it – perhaps you have to. It is absolutely vital that you take a picture of your passport and driver’s license (with your phone), and email a copy to yourself. The process of getting back home becomes much easier if you have a way to get a visual ID of yourself, as well as your passport and license number.

When you do this, you have two levels of back-up. If you simply lose the document, you have a back-up on your phone. If you lose both the documents and the phone, you have a cloud-based way to retrieve the information. It’s best to make a checklist of whatever documents you’ll need so that you can keep track of any spare copies you have lying around.

Take More Photos

Take as many photos as possible when the opportunity presents itself.

On our first few trips, we hesitated to take the amount of pictures we wanted to for a few reason. Among them, we were afraid of looking “touristy” or drawing attention to ourselves, but the reality is that no one cares if you’re taking photos. Neither should you.

It’s a regret of ours now that we don’t have the volume of photos from those first few trips that we do from our more recent trips, and unfortunately that’s something we can’t redo. If you really think about it, photos are one of the most valuable things you can bring back from a trip. Photos are free. Souvenirs are not. Photos remind you of where you were, while sometimes your memory can be off. Want to remember what the Cliffs of Moher looked like? Make sure to have the photos.

It’s also paramount to back-up your photos, no matter what device you’re using. Being iPhone users, we pay for extra cloud storage for just a few bucks a month, which has saved us on a few occasions when our phones were lost or stolen. If you’re using a professional camera, make sure to load your photos on your laptop or tablet at the end of each day, just in case.

Take a Small Umbrella or Poncho

Umbrellas are essential during any travel.

Umbrellas and ponchos can be live-savers, no matter where you’re traveling. One thing you want to make sure of is that you buy these at home, as these types of of accessories are always going to be marked-up 200-300% if purchased in an airport or other tourist trap. Make sure the umbrella is short and small enough to fit in your backpack, and don’t unpack the poncho. These always come very compressed in their packaging, which will afford you the space in whatever luggage you decide to use.

Speaking of luggage…

Backpack More, Suitcase Less

If you’re like us, you prefer mountains and backpacks over suitcases and posh hotel rooms.

We have never lost our luggage. Why? Because we never check bags.

Most people take way more on vacation than what they need. When you overpack, you need a bigger piece of luggage such as a massive suitcase. We don’t even own these types of suitcases, but instead take the bare essentials in our backpack, and plan on re-wearing clothes as often as possible.

Most places you go will afford you the opportunity to wash clothes, either at the hotel or at a laundromat somewhere nearby. It’s worth doing this once in any city in which you stay, as it’s a cheap expense that can save you space, time and money in the airport by allowing you to pack half the amount.

Snack More, Dine Less

When we ate out in Barcelona, we made it count!

You probably don’t eat out three times a day back home, and there’s no reason to while traveling.

There are two things Tracy and I do that allow us to spend less on food when we travel. First, we buy inexpensive, healthy snacks we can take with us. On our first few trips, we ruined our budget by eating out for every meal, thinking that we weren’t “experiencing” the place we were traveling unless we were eating out or drinking out. This is absolutely not true.

Secondly, buy food for the room. Most places will have a small store, such as Albert Heijn in The Netherlands or Tesco in the UK, where you can buy pre-made sandwiches and small meals that are surprisingly good, as well as non-perishable items you can keep in your room.

Our rule of thumb is generally this – out of our three daily meals we’ll have one in the room, one on the road and one eating out. It saves us a ton of cash and helps us use that money for other experiences. Also, when you do decide to eat out, you can really make it count!

If you stick to tips like these, you’re going to travel better and travel more. From money-saving travel tips to safety advice when traveling overseas, learn from our mistakes and make your travel worry-free.

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Que Rico Puerto Rico – Part I


Que Rico, Puerto Rico – Part I was written by Tito Mendez, a Puerto Rican native who lives in South Florida with his wife, Cristina. He is an accomplished writer and Program Manager for one of the largest international distribution companies in the world. Tito’s social media profile can be found here

Puerto Rico is easily on top of my favorite places to visit. Given that I was raised there doesn’t make me biased, yet it makes me wonder – how can you live someplace for the majority of your life and still want to continuously visit? That’s easy, because living somewhere doesn’t mean you have seen it all and when it comes to this Borinquen island there is no exception.

What you will read will contain two parts, one from the eyes of a traveler and the other from the eyes of a local. I hope you enjoy and book a ticket before you reach the end to see all of the great places of interest in Puerto Rico!

Puerto Rico is only 100 miles long by 35 miles wide and is the smallest and the most eastern island of the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica and Puerto Rico). However, this doesn’t mean you can see the sites Puerto Rico has to offer on a week-long vacation. The inner parts of the island are incredible sites that you only usually see on a promotional travel commercial, as without the aid of a local the typical “tourist” never ventures this far inward. Before we get into the meat of what the island offers, however, let’s talk a bit about those traditional tourist spots and some twists along the way.

Traditional Travels

Despite the depth of Puerto Rico, you can still experience much of the culture and vibe of what is offered from a standard tourists’ travel.

For your traditional feel of what Puerto Rico truly is, you would ideally be staying in San Juan, Bayamon, or Old San Juan (by far my favorite). If you are staying in any of the following places I mentioned above, you are bound to have a great time.

So what do these areas have to offer?

Old San Juan was established in 1509, and it unquestionably shows it. The roads are mainly cabo stones that are beautiful to walk on but a little slippery after it rains (side note, Puerto Rico is a tropical rain forest so expect it to rain 1-2 hours daily). It also offers classic apartments, homes, churches and other fascinating architecture that may seem very different yet flattering. I suggest AirBnB to get a place that is within the city, most of which will be beautiful and contain hundreds of years of history, in opposition to traditional hotels with a cookie-cutter, tourist feel.

San Juan is littered with beautiful, colorfully painted buildings that are full of character.

You can walk Old San Juan in a day, see much of what needs to be seen, and truly get to experience beautiful sites such as El Morro. This fort, built in 1589, boasts walls 18 feet high with thick, fortified stone. You are allowed to enter both sites (Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristobal) with a cheap ticket price, and both are worth the time. Here you will be able to experience what it looked like for soldiers to fight and keep watch over the island, giving you a feel of what life was like for the defenders of the island hundreds of years ago.

You will also be able to visit “La Fortaleza”, Old San Juan’s original defense fortification before the construction of El Morro, Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, the second oldest European settlement in the west hemisphere, San Juan Gate (built in 1749), and Paseo de la Princesa, a trail that dates back to 1852 where you will find cafes, benches, musicians, and vendors.

La Fortaleza from the sea.

Venturing out of Old San Juan there are a few gems to keep in mind when you visit. Those are the Bacardi factory (even if you’re not a drinker, you simply need a tour of this facility) and El Yunque, a tropical “Rain Forrest” that is the largest mountain in Puerto Rico. You will be allowed to walk up the mountain to the very top, while gaining some history and beautiful views of animals, rivers, and waterfalls. One story you will here often is, “according to ancient Indian Legend, a good spirit ‘Yuquiyu’ (or ‘Yokahu’) reigned on his mightily mountain-top throne, protecting Puerto Rico and its people.” The feel atop El Yunque seems to give this story reality.

Borinquen Beaches

Once the historical aspects of Old San Juan grow long on you, you would be wise to enjoy some of the more popular beaches in the San Juan area. These beaches not only offer amazing scenery but also great street food that is cooked traditionally with firewood right in front of you.

The beautiful east side of Puerto Rico.

These beaches include:

Ocean Park – It attracts more adults and less of the family fare. The wide beach, lined with palm and sea grape trees, fronts a residential neighborhood of beautiful homes, free of the high-rise condos that line other San Juan beaches. Expect to find more beer than kids in this idyllic location.

Luquillo Beach – (My wife’s favorite beach) 30 miles east of San Juan, has better sands and clearer waters than most in San Juan. The vast sandy beach opens onto a crescent-shaped bay edged by a coconut grove. Coral reefs protect the crystal-clear lagoon from the often rough Atlantic waters that can buffet the northern coast, making Luquillo a good place for young children to swim.

Pine Grove Beach -Near the airport, it is a crescent-shaped, white-sand beach whose tranquil, blue waters are protected by an offshore reef from the often-rough Atlantic current.

For bars and drinks there really isn’t any that you can go wrong with, each bar bringing a unique approach to specialty cocktails. My advice is to stay open minded, try something you haven’t heard of before and don’t be afraid to take the advice of a local! I can assure you that most are naturally made and delicious. We’ll cover more of that in Part II, however…

Until then, have fun y hasta luego!

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Top 10 Most Beautiful Underrated Caribbean Islands


The Caribbean is too-often associated with simply being a destination of family cruises, where one is taken out into the ocean on a big boat, dumped onto a tourist-friendly block of an island and swooped back up twelve hours for another jaunt to the next location. The truth is, the Caribbean offers many islands that are worth the flight and hotel expense not only because of the impeccable weather, but variety of rich, cultured experiences available on virtually every island. Especially great is the remote nature of these islands as off-the-beaten path destinations for quiet vacations.

Additionally, this beautiful expanse of islands is mistakenly summed up by thinking of a few locations only – Jamaica, Bahamas and Aruba being those that stand out when individuals and couples search for the best islands in the Caribbean. Fortunately, there is so much more to be seen and experienced out of the 28 island nations in the Caribbean, as well as the more than 7,000 individual islands! There are a million reasons to travel to the Caribbean, but here are some of our favorite under the radar locations and why we think you should go!

Curaçao

Part of the sister islands that make the ABC islands (along with Bonaire and Aruba), Curacao boasts incredible beach-fronts, crystal-clear water and some of the best and most affordable resorts in the Caribbean. Part touristic, part untouched, Curacao has something in mind for the beach-goer and party-goer, including some of the most stunning vistas in the Caribbean as well as a thriving nightlife in downtown Willemstad, the capital. Lastly, the ABCs are technically removed from the hurricane belt, making weather a nearly non-factor year-round for the gorgeous utopia.

Perhaps the most truly differentiating things on the island to experience is the shipwreck on Klein Curacao, a small island just off the mainland. Curacao is, in fact, a hot-bed of shipwreck activity with several notable locations to dive or snorkel around shipwrecks such as the Superior Producer, which went down in 1978.

Bayahibe, Dominican Republic

Most come to the Dominican Republic for Punta Cana, the coastal city littered with all-you-can-eat packages and Caribbean tourists who want to be in the Caribbean without actually being in the Caribbean. However, Bayahibe offers a truer and less stale experience than Punta cana. Take advantage of the locally-prepared seafood dishes and scuba diving by day, and the numerous, thriving and vibrant live music establishments by night. Kviar Show Disco & Casino Bayahibe is a favorite place that doubles as a location to dance the night away, have some drinks, and risk a few bucks on the blackjack table.

Bonaire

 

There are countless reasons to visit Bonaire, and its not only our favorite place in the Caribbean, but arguably our favorite place in the world. Small, unspoiled and untouched, Bonaire is a water-lover’s dream, featuring some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world, as well as a vibrant nightlife and excellent cultural experiences.

Make sure to visit Klein Bonaire, a small swath of land directly opposing the primary tourists’ area in the capital of Kralendijk, where daily boats will take you on a short ride to experience a completely unfettered snorkeling experience. Don’t forget to take your own food and drink, however, because Klein is completely uninhabited. Bonaire is ridiculously romantic, and absolutely perfect as a Caribbean get-away for couples!

Nevis

Nevis is small. Very small, at only 36 square miles. However, what the tiny island lacks in size it makes up for in richness. There is simply so much to do in this idyllic paradise, including volcano exploration, hiking, camping, snorkeling and diving – to name a few.

Additionally, Nevis doubles as the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, 18th century American statesman and the 1st Treasury Secretary in national history. Hamilton is honored throughout the island, including a casual trip through the now-museum that sits at the site of his birthplace. You’ll have to fly from Miami into into neighboring St. Kitts to reach Nevis, but the extra layover is absolutely worth it.

Grenada

Grenada is rolling and stunning, although often overlooked in favor of many of its neighbors. It is possibly one of the most unspoiled islands in the West Indies, and retains original colonial charm as well as a casual atmosphere and amazing food. St. George, the island nation’s capital, is a cultural landmark full of historic museums and inviting people.

The Coyaba Beach Resort is the place to stay, as it includes reasonable prices, beautiful rooms and one of the best restaurants on the island – the Arawakabana

Saba

Saba is the smallest Dutch-Caribbean island, and certainly one of the most beautiful. Called the “Unspoiled Queen”, the island houses less than two-thousand residents, making it an ideal choice for those looking to truly disappear off the grid.

In addition, Saba has some of the highest elevation in the Caribbean, making it the perfect location for hiking and mountain biking, at more than 1,200 feet in elevation. The lifestyle on Saba is different from much of the Caribbean – slow and old-fashioned with little nightlife, even with the emergence of an ecotourism industry in the last few decades.

Tobago

Just north of Venezuela sits Trinidad and Tobago, the southernmost country in the Caribbean. Trinidad is unquestionably the bigger brother of the two, being larger, more industrialized and more acclimated to tourism, but Tobago offers much. Low-key and unspoiled, there are a few resorts in Tobago such as the Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort where the ocean is warm year-round, completely calm and untampered. Additionally, Le Grand Courlan is a perfect couples resort because of its adults-only policy!

Tobago is scenically stunning due to a natural feature most Caribbean islands lack in volume – bays. Tobago has numerous well-known bays that are ideal for boating, diving or simply swimming. What’s better is that many of these are away from what few “touristy” areas there are, while remaining perfectly safe.

Cayman Brac and Little Cayman

Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are stunning visually and even more interesting historically, as a remaining location where the infamous pirate Blackbeard allegedly hid his treasure – estimated at more than $14 million according to record. Accessible through the Grand Cayman, these islands offer superb adventures for scuba divers, cliff divers and windsurfers.

Legend has it that Blackbeard’s treasure is hidden along an area of rocky shoal that outlines the beautiful Cayman Brac. This shoal reaches high and vast, attracting rock climbers and hikers in addition to the already-present divers and treasure hunters! Beyond the shoal lie vast caves scattered along the coastline where small amount of gold, silver and jewels have been found over the years!

Barbados

Barbados is a natural wonder, complete with beautiful, scenic nature that is perfect for calm, casual walks throughout the island. Botanical gardens, forest trails and caves are virtually everywhere, making Barbados a perfect off-the-grid location to reconnect with nature. Harrison’s Cave is a wonderful location for a truly unique Caribbean experience, and afterward you could east to the stunning Bathsheba Beach or to the south, where the Mount Gay Rum distillery has been in operation since 1703.

On Barbados’ Platinum Coast, the calm water is ideal for swimming, snorkeling or simply doing nothing.  For culinary enthusiast, the coastal fishing town of Oistons is ideal to try your hand at fry fishing with locals and familiarizing yourself with authentic Caribbean cuisine!

Vieques Island, Puerto Rico

If you visit Puerto Rico, and you should, make sure to take a small ferry over to Vieques Island, a small and quiet paradise filled with lavish resorts, mangroves, wildlife and picturesque beaches. The Vieques Wildlife National Refuge is a must-see feature of this island, as it retains much of the natural Puerto Rican wildlife to be left undisturbed and protected.

Just eight miles east of the mainland Puerto Rico, Vieques features some of the most beautiful black-sand beaches in the Caribbean, as well as Bahía Bioluminiscente. Also called “Bio Bays”, these are bodies of water that contain millions of micro-organisms, called “dinoflagellates”, that glow in the dark for a second when agitated. It is a rare, natural wonder that you can easily experience while visiting Puerto Rico. Have your camera ready!

There’s more to the Caribbean than cruises or Jamaica. With an area so moving, so beautiful and so vast, the numbers of island nations are far more varied than most imagine and offer myriad unique experiences for anyone willing to take a chance. Often, these more “out of the way” locations are the ones that will simply amaze you with things you never imagined, food you never tasted and the kind of people you could only meet far from the general eye of tourism. Take a step away from the places you know, venture further, and experience all the Caribbean has to offer.

 

 

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5 Free Things To Do In Munich


Munich is a rare city that one could say is, in fact, uniquely its own. The history, each the good, bad, and notoriously dreadful, are all uniquely her. The site of the nationalistic uprising that resulted in Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Munich has grown from its treacherous past and is today an impeccably serene, peaceful and idyllic place. From Bavarian architecture and face-sized pints of Weissbier to its understanding and growth from its war-torn history, Munich is utterly unmistakable from any other.

What few know and understand about Munich is that it’s also a great budget travel city, and one in which you’ll find yourself often dumbfounded by brilliance simply by standing, walking or looking up. Here, we’ve covered five great, free ways to make the most of the Old Bavarian capital.

Free Walking Tour

One of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences in Munich is the Free Walking Tour, offered by a handful of independent crews that work by donation throughout the city center. Mostly beginning in front of the Marienplatz, the city’s main square since 1158, you’ll have the opportunity to tour Munich by foot and learn about the deep, rich history of the city.

The one we chose was Sandeman’s, which convened in the city center in front of the Marienplatz. It’s best to check ahead for availability and space, especially weather pending, but actually setting up to attend the tour is quite easy. The tour guides are fantastically knowledgeable about Munich, and will share with you the epic details behind locations such as Marienplatz (and the Glockenspiel that adorns its tower), Englischer Garter, Munich Residenz, Altes Rathaus and the five famous Munchen breweries including the ubiquitous Hofbrauhaus, which dates back to 1589! Other spots include Odeonsplatz, the site of numerous early Nazi speeches and beside the area where Hitler was allegedly shot during the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. Truly, Munich comes alive on this tour that brings all stories to the forefront – both the known and the unknown of the city.

Make sure to have a camera handy, as the walking tour offers much of what you expected to see in Munich, a few surprises, and plenty of scenic beauty around this beautiful city center. The free walking tours are a must see, even if you’re only looking for something to fill up one day in Munich.

The Gardens at Nymphenburg Park

Nymphenburg Palace is a place of unspeakable beauty, finished in 1675 and once home to such luminaries as King Ludwig II, who was born there in 1845. While the palace itself is a for-pay attraction, the gardens outside are stunning and free to walk about.

Nearly 500 acres in size, the Gardens at Nymphenburg are bejeweled by stunning fountains such as The Grand Cascade, impeccably manicured hedgerows and beautiful lakes that can be viewed year-round. The grounds retain much of the old Bavarian feel, as they’ve remained largely unchanged beyond a few minor additions and alterations made in the latter 19th century. There are numerous attractions on the grounds, including the Royal Bathing House known as Badenburg and Pagodenburg, a royal teahouse built in beautiful, traditional 19th century majesty.

While there are entrance fees to enter Nymphenburg much of the year, off-times of the year where entry can be had for free – especially if bundled with the palace.

Stroll the Englischer Garten

A popular site on the walking tour, the Englischer Garten shocks one at its mere size – which is larger than both London’s Hyde Park and New York’s Central Park.

Englischer Garten surprises, as it’s both fantastical and diverse – including a Japanese Teahouse given to the City of Munich by Japan during the 1972 Summer Olympics as well as the popular Eisbach, a standing wave artificially produced in a stream and serves as a popular spot for surfers who long for the ocean.

Most commonly, Englischer Garten is a wonderful place to relax. Revelers can be seen soaking in the sun in summer months, either resting on a bench to read a book or decompressing on a blanket with perhaps a few sandwiches in hand. It is this that makes the garden an ideal place to sit, renew the soul and simply watch the city pass you by.

Hofbrauhaus

The already-mentioned Hofbrauhaus is central to Munich’s history, as the site of the city’s most famous brewery since 1589.

Forcibly restored since sustaining extensive bombing damage during the raids of World War II, Hofbrauhaus maintains its original character including vaulted, masterfully-painted ceilings and authentic Bavarian music played live alongside the gigantic steins of liquid courage. Yet, you don’t need to have a pint of the good stuff to enjoy Hofbrauhaus, as its halls and historic upstairs dining area are all must-see attractions that are free and open to tourists year-round.

If you do want to shell out a few Euros while on site, Hofbrauhaus is an essential place to experience one of those over-sized beers along with your first helping of schnitzel! Tracy and I sat for hours, sitting the beautiful, golden lager and listening to a traditional polka band play in the lower hall of Hofbrauhaus, a massively stunning work of art that also boasts excellent acoustics for such a performance.

Olympic Park

Olympiapark, built for the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics, still is operational, beautiful, and open to the public. During the summer months, Olympiapark serves the city with a series of free concerts on its beautiful grounds. The stadium still hosts numerous annual events, such as Holiday on Ice and the Six-Day-Run, both of which are widely attended and fantastic for tourists.

Outside the stadium itself is Olympiaberg, another great free attraction and a high hillside that serves picnickers as well as blanket-toting music lovers who would rather hear the sounds of Olympiaparks major concerts from afar – and without cost. These free attractions are where Munich begins, but certainly not where it ends. Full of mystery, beauty and historical significance, it’s a city that presents boundless opportunities to delve deeper.

What are your favorite free things to do in Munich?

 

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5 Fun Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale


Fort Lauderdale is a fun and festive beach-side city with endless things to do, from the Atlantic coast to the Downtown vibe, it takes Miami’s tempo, chills it out a bit, and draws you in. Check out 5 things to do in this sunny city!

The Beautiful Beaches

Fort Lauderdale espouses some of the most gorgeous beaches in the continental U.S. With soft white sand and gently waving blue water, it’s the perfect place to relax. While a tourist attraction, its also a local favorite, and despite its beauty remains relatively uncrowded. Parking is relatively easy to access and inexpensive as well.

The famous Elbo Room on the corner of A1A and Las Olas is a favorite of vacationers and regulars alike, offering a classic location with drinks and a view of the sea. Grab a cocktail, make some new friends, and then venture out with your towels and sunglasses for a swim, just across the street! In addition to this beach favorite, take a walk along the main drag to stroll past the other myriad restaurants and shops. Many offer drink specials, including two-for-one tropical drinks in 30+ ounce martini glasses!

If day turns tonight along the beautiful beach, you’re well taken care of. All along A1A the Fort Lauderdale nightlife begins to thrive early in the evening and continues until the wee hours of the morning!

Hit Up Downtown

After a day at the beach, put away your sunscreen and head out to Fort Lauderdale’s vibrant downtown. Himmarshee Street is a fun and walkable strip of modern restaurants, great bars, and local favorites with upbeat live music ranging from salsa to hard rock. As you walk along you’ll find an amazing array of food and drinks, everything from fried chicken, to seafood, to tacos and pizza – all of which impress!

Check out Taco Craft or Bull Market for a drink and dinner, and if you’re feeling the need to dance the night away, (or just grab some handcrafted cocktails), make a visit to Stache. From the street, this eclectic and unique location doesn’t advertise – just look for the Chinese lettering on the red marquee off 2nd avenue, which is around the corner from Himmarshee Street itself. (Make sure to check out the upstairs “library”!)

Lastly, continue your walk behind the downtown/Himmarshee area to the riverfront and enjoy the scenic beauty of the Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk area, a long, winding riverside walkway that bends along the New River. Yachts stride up and down this stretch of calm waterway day and night, and the nighttime lights of the boats make for great romantic sightseeing on a crisp evening.

Take the Water Taxi

One of the best ways to get around the intracoastal is via the local water taxi. Hosted by charming and informative captains, these boats will take you through the winding waters of the local area, stopping at locations all the way from the Fort Lauderdale to the city of Hollywood, if you so choose! With stops all along the water, take your pick and hop on (and then, off!) wherever you’d like.
Make sure to stop at the 15th Street Fisheries restaurant, as well as Bahia Del Mar, both excellent waterfront places to get great food and drinks. Try the fish dip at Bahia, not to be missed! After a day on the intracostal, you can exit the taxi at any one of their stops as well. Running day and night daily, the Water Taxi is a thriving attraction while getting around the city every weekend – so why not give it a try?

See a Show at the Broward Center

Located right in the heart of Fort Lauderdale is the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Sitting along a quaint section of the intracoastal, it brings in an impressive array of Broadway productions and concerts during the year. From The Lion King and Rascal Flatts to smaller, local productions, their rotating schedule is one to keep an eye on. Ticket prices are reasonable, especially considering the caliber of performances, and the venue is a tribute to theater itself.

The Broward Center features both a classically beautiful main theater, often a center for popular national and global acts that seats thousands, as well as a smaller theater (pictured above) that focuses on providing an environment for local artistic troupes – which we often prefer. With comfortable seating, both inside and out, you can spend intermission on the terrace with a nice glass of wine and good conversation. Check out their schedule while you’re in town and find any number of intriguing performances!

Brunch it Up!

Fort Lauderdale is definitely a brunch-friendly city! After a few days in the sun, sand, and festivities of the area, you’ll find that the mid-morning scene in Fort Lauderdale is a welcome repose for a weekend morning (or, afternoon!). There are so many great places to experience great food and a couple mimosas, its difficult to pick favorites!

For starters, check out the classic Foxy Brown on East Broward Blvd for great American fare and a covered back patio where you can relax with your bubbly drinks. Get there early for the best seating, it’s a popular spot for a reason – the food is delicious! If you’re looking for more of a downtown vibe, head back to Himmarshee and sit along the street at Public House while you people watch, a favorite among locals. Make sure to ask for a spicy Bloody Mary to accent your meal. For some Latin flavor, make your way to The Chimney House, located near the Broward Center, which serves some of the best Latin cuisine in the city. Also a great place to sit outside, make sure to order their house-made Sangria and a plate of Empanadas… amazing!

At every turn, Fort Lauderdale is a fun and exciting place, with beautiful beaches, world-class food, theater, and excursions. Bring a couple towels, some sunglasses and your spirit for adventure, and get lost in the sunlight!

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7 Free Things to do in Tokyo


Tokyo is a cultural whirlwind, unlike any city in Japan, let alone the world. Known for it’s unique and often strange underbelly, there is a rich, beautiful landscape of things to do in Japan’s capital city.

Thick with museums, parks, sight-seeing from upon high and, of course – food, Tokyo offers everything for anyone looking experience something truly unique.

Imperial Palace 

The residence of the Emperor of Japan, the Imperial Palace is the site to many pre-existing palaces that stretch far back into Japanese history. However, this sprawling, beautiful terrain isn’t only for emperors and royalty – it’s also great for tourists.

Among the things one can do at the Imperial Palace include strolling the East Gardens, which surround the ruins of Edo Castle and are also the site of many administrative buildings. Other great, free sight-seeing opportunities include the Chidorigafuchi Moat, which surrounds the Palace, as well as Kitanomaru Park – a site absolutely filled with beautiful scenes of nature and parks.

Spend time at a Matsuri

Matsuri simply means “festival” in Japanese, and the Japanese are indeed very festive. One can find a festival in some area of Tokyo virtually every weekend, from the famous Gion Matsuri on consecutive weekends in July to the Kanda, a May festival in which the Kanda Myojin Shrine is paraded throughout the city.

These festivals are absolute eye-candy for photo buffs and lovers of history and culture, as they often depict and honor scenes of authentic, historical Japanese lore.

Visit Sensoji (Sensō-ji)

Sensoji is a nearly 1,500-year-old temple in Tokyo and one of the most famous Buddhist sites in all of Japan.

Completed in 628, Sensoji is a popular site for tourists due to it’s stunning vistas, ample photographic opportunities and the temple grounds, which are a major site for shopping and great, original Japanese food markets. Additionally, Sensoji is the site of Sanja Matsuri, another popular festival that stretches over four days in late Spring.

Gardens at Hotel Chinzanso

The gardens predate the hotel, which was only built in 2013 to take advantage of the beautiful wildlife area, by more than 130 years. The Gardens at Hotel Chinzanso are home to gorgeous original relics, such as the thousand-year-old pagoda and seemingly ageless hanging stone lanterns. Another site among the grounds are the natural, wild camellia flowers that can be seen throughout.

The hotel is a large establishment, boasting 260 rooms and twelve restaurants that include French and Italian bistros, world-class Sushi and fine-dining.

Enjoy public art and architecture

The creative brilliance of the Japanese is apparent around every corner, and in everywhere square, which makes Tokyo an ideal location for sighting free public art and gawking at some of their wondrous architecture.

Among the favorites is Constellation, in the Pacifico Yokohama Convention Center. It is a stained-glass recreation of the late Ikuo Hirayama’s paintings and features stars and constellations The Maman, a masterpiece by the legendary French artist Louise Bourgeois, is located in the Roppongi Hills courtyard. The spider-like work draws interest from both tourists and locals alike, as it’s realistic bronze stainless steel structure stands over 30-feet high, and contains within it’s abdomen 26 marble, realistic-looking eggs!

Tsukuji Market

A heartthrob location for culinarians and foodies, the Tsukuji Market is a sprawling fish and seafood market that handles more than 700,000 metric tons of fresh seafood each year. The variety is vast, including simple fare such as inexpensive seaweed to high-end caviar and controversial cuts of fresh whale, all of which are for purchase for laymen as well as giants in the local Tokyo food scene.

Sight-seers had better arrive early, however, as the market opens at 3am with the auction-style selling of prime products taking flight at 5:30! A pending move of the market out of Tokyo has been delayed until at least winter of 2017, so don’t waste time if this is on your culinary bucket-list!

Odaiba

Odaiba is an artificial island built in the 1850s for defense purposes, but has since been designated into an area for shopping, sight-seeing and leisure.

A stunning nighttime vista, the Odaiba is connected to the heart of Tokyo by the Rainbow Bridge and includes such attractions such as a Statue of Liberty replica and Daikanransha, a 377-foot tall Ferris wheel that overlooks the island.

Tokyo, like anywhere else, can be had without emptying your wallet. In fact, some of the most beautiful and enjoyable things to see can be experienced without even opening it!